Plastic Bags Tax (UK)


The Single Use Carrier Bags Charge (Wales) Regulations 2010 (amended 2011) are in force from 1st October 2011.

These rules require all retailers in Wales to charge a minimum of 5 pence for every single use carrier bag (including paper bags but not large plastic bags or paper bags used for raw food and certain other products) supplied new. Retailers employing fewer than 10 full-time staff do not have to keep records or make reports. County councils and county borough councils administer this charge. The money raised is kept by the retailer and the rules do not specify where the proceeds of the charge should go. The expectation is that the proceeds should be passed on to charities or to good causes in Wales, and in particular to environmental projects. 

A voluntary agreement sets out guiding principles on where the net proceeds should go. The Waste (Wales) Measure 2010 gives Welsh Ministers the power to create regulations which would impose duties on retailers on the destination of proceeds from the charge. 

The voluntary agreement is here.


The legislation is The Single Use Carrier Bags Charge (Scotland) Regulations 2014 (amended 2015). This came into force on 20th October 2014. As with Wales, the charge is 5p per single use carrier bag, and again businesses employing less than 10 full-time staff are exempt from the requirement to keep, retain and supply information about the bags supplied and the monies received as a result of the charge. Also retailers keep the charge, and again the expectation is that these monies should be donated to good causes.

A Carrier Bag Committment document exists for retailers to sign up to. Details are found here.

Northern Ireland

Requirements are set out in the Carrier Bags Act (Northern Ireland) 2014, the Single Use Carrier Bags Act (Northern Ireland) 2011, and The Single Use Carrier Bags Charge Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2013. These came into effect from 8th April 2013.

These rules oblige retailers (as in Wales and Scotland) to charge 5p for every single use carrier bag supplied new. In addition, from 19th January 2015, retailers must add 5p to all carrier bags with a retail price below 20p, regardless of whether they are single use or reusable. This is called the Carrier Bag Levy and In Northern Ireland, the monies raised must be paid to the Department of Environment (DOE). Further information is found here.


The Single Use Carrier Bags Charges (England) Order 2015 sets out the rules, and came into force on 5th October 2015.

The obligation to charge for single-use carrier bags applies to retailers with 250 or more employees. Smaller businesses may also charge on a voluntary basis if they wish. The 250 employee threshold applies to the company not the size of the individual retail outlet. Records must be kept and sent to DEFRA. It is expected that all proceeds (after deduction of reasonable costs) should be donated to good causes, along the lines of the way this works in Wales. Further information is found here.

Food Waste (UK)

Northern Ireland

The Food Waste Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2015 amend the Waste and Contaminated Land (Northern Ireland) Order 1997 (as amended) to provide for the separate collection of food waste from 1st April 2016.

The duty is on food businesses producing in excess of 5kg of food waste per week to present food waste for separate collection. For the period 1st April 2016-31st March 2017, the threshold is 50kg of food waste per week. These businesses must not deposit food waste in a lateral drain or sewer (this duty applies from 1st April 2017).

Waste transporters must collect and transport food waste separately from other waste. This duty applies from 1st April 2015.

Subscribers to Cardinal Environment Tailored EHS Legislation Registers will have their systems updated nearer the time, and a formal Email Alert will be sent out.


The above duties apply in Scotland. The relevant dates is 1st January 2016 for the threshold to drop from 50 kg per week to 5kg per week, and for the ban on disposal to drain.

Cardinal Environment Tailored EHS Legislation Registers are already updated, subscribers are reminded in 2015 Annual Reviews, and a reminder Email Alert will be sent out.

England and Wales

No food waste legislation is yet enacted. A Food Waste (Reduction) Bill is introduced as a 10-Minute Rule Motion and has all party support. This bill will have its second reading in January 2016. 

This bill obliges the Secretary of State to make provision for a scheme to establish incentives to implement and encourage observance of the food waste reduction hierarchy; to encourage individuals, businesses and public bodies to reduce the amount of food they waste; to require large supermarkets, manufacturers and distributors to reduce their food waste by no less than 30 per cent by 2025 and to enter into formal agreements with food redistribution organisations; to require large supermarkets and food manufacturers to disclose levels of food waste in their supply chain.

Information on bill progress is found here.

Republic of Ireland (ROI)

ROI has had food waste legislation in place for some time.

Cardinal Environment Tailored EHS Legislation Systems already include these rules.

Liz Truss continues as UK DEFRA Secretary

Welcoming the continuation of Rt Hon Liz Truss MP as Secretary of State for UK Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA).

DEFRA is a large UK government department responsible for policy and regulations on environmental, food and rural issues, covering:

* the natural environment, biodiversity, plants and animals 

* sustainable development and the green economy 

* food, farming and fisheries 

* animal health and welfare 

* environmental protection and pollution control 

* rural communities and issues 

DEFRA only works directly in England, by concordat works closely with the devolved administrations in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, and generally leads on negotiations in the EU and internationally.

DEFRA’s work and priorities are delivered by 35 separate agencies and public bodies, listed here.


Waste Crime Enforcement Consultation (England and Wales)

DEFRA (the UK Government’s Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs) is consulting on new government proposals to enhance the enforcement powers of the Environment Agency, Natural Resources Wales and local authorities, in respect of waste.

Most waste infringements (of statute law) are environmental crimes. The consultation document sets out a range of proposals to improve enforcement.

The consultation also asks for evidence of measures to tackle waste crime and “trenchant poor performance in the waste management industry”.

The consultation document is found here. Consultation concludes 6th May 2015.

California Plastic Bag Ban (US – California)

First U.S. statewide ban on single-use plastic bags – California’s Senate Bill 270 entered into law on 30 September 2014.

California Senate Bill 270 is found here.

This legislation prohibits large grocery stores from carrying single-use bags starting in July 2015, expanding to smaller stores the year after. It also allows businesses to charge 10-cent fees to provide customers with reusable or paper bags.

More than 100 cities and counties, including San Francisco and Los Angeles, already have their own plastic bag bans.

My May 2014 blog on UK plastic bag levies is here.

Waste Shipper Jailed (England)

Repeat waste crime offender Joe Benson was sentenced (June 2014) to 16 months in prison at Snaresbrook Crown Court for illegally exporting 46 tonnes of hazardous electrical waste to Nigeria, Ghana, the Ivory Coast and the Congo.

Broken cathode ray tube televisions and ozone depleting fridge freezers were found in four containers intercepted at ports by Environment Agency investigators.

This is the first time a custodial sentence is handed down for illegal waste exports.

Andrew Higham, who leads the Environment Agency’s National Environmental Crime Team, said:

These are not victimless crimes. The rules governing the exportation of waste electrical equipment are in place for good reason, to protect human life and the environment.

It is illegal to send hazardous waste to these countries. Mr Benson has seen fit to flaunt the rules for his own personal benefit. The Environment Agency has a specialist crime unit to track and prosecute criminals who export waste illegally.

Per the EA press release – Working electronics can be exported for resale and there is a legitimate market for used goods. But the law is clear – it is always illegal to send hazardous electronic waste from the UK to developing countries where it could be dumped and burnt to extract precious metals, posing serious risks to people’s health and damage to the environment. They can contain hazardous materials such as lead, phosphors and ozone depleting substances.

Proposal to Increase Waste Recycling Rates (EU)

COM/2014/0397 is a proposal (adopted European Commission 2 July 2014) to increase recycling rates in the existing Landfill Directive, the Packaging and Packaging Waste Directive, the Batteries and Accumulators Directive, the WEEE Directive and the End-of-Life Vehicles Directive.

Key elements:

* Recycling and preparing for re-use of municipal waste to be increased to 70 % by 2030;
* Recycling and preparing for re-use of packaging waste to be increased to 80 % by 2030, with material-specific targets set to gradually increase between 2020 and 2030 (to reach 90 % for paper by 2025 and 60% for plastics, 80% for wood, 90% of ferrous metal, aluminium and glass by the end of 2030);
* Phasing out landfilling by 2025 for recyclable (including plastics, paper, metals, glass and bio-waste) waste in non hazardous waste landfills – corresponding to a maximum landfilling rate of 25%;
* Measures aimed at reducing food waste generation by 30 % by 2025;
* Introducing an early warning system to anticipate and avoid possible compliance difficulties in Member States;
* Promoting the dissemination of best practices in all Member States, such as better use of economic instruments (e.g. landfill/incineration taxes, pay-as-you-throw schemes, incentives for municipalities) and improved separate collection;
* Improving traceability of hazardous waste;
* Increasing the cost-effectiveness of Extended Producer Responsibility schemes by defining minimum conditions for their operation;
* Simplifying reporting obligations and alleviating burdens faced by SMEs;
* Improving the reliability of key statistics through harmonised and streamlined calculation of targets;
* Improving the overall coherence of waste legislation by aligning definitions and removing obsolete legal requirements.

COM 2014 (397) is here.

COM 2014 (397) annexes are here.